This review is part of Ogiue Maniax’s coverage for Otakon 2017.
To this day, Eureka Seven is one of my favorite anime ever. From the pacing to the characters to the messages conveyed, it is a joy to watch and to think about. Over the years, Eureka Seven has returned in many different forms, from an unusual experiment in “re-casting” its characters, to a flawed sequel. At Otakon 2017, I got the chance to see the world premiere of Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution 1, the first of a new trilogy of movies, I had to wonder just what form it would take. The result is something I certainly did not expect.
The general story of Eureka Seven is the science fictional romance of Renton Thurston, a teenage boy from a nowhere town, and the titular Eureka, a teenage girl who is actually of a mysterious other species known as “Coralians,” and one of the few to take human form. A world filled with giant robots, music, and youth culture, the original anime exuded a sense of style and sincerity that few works manage to capture.
Hi-Evoluton 1 actually starts off as a prequel to the events of the TV series, portraying the “Summer of Love,” the mysterious event where Adroc Thurston—Renton’s father—saved the world and became a hero. The second is a Throughout the original television series, it’s hinted that the events of the Summer of Love didn’t quite go as officially reported, so it gives insight as to just what caused the conflict. For this first half hour of the film, all of the animation is new, and we get to see a number of characters who would come to play pivotal roles in the main series, including Eureka herself.
The second part of the film is where things get unusual.
It’s common for movie series based on popular franchises to front load its films with existing footage and familiar scenes, such that the first film is a time saver, a money saver, and a way to catch unfamiliar viewers up with what a work is all about. Mobile Suit Gundam did this, Space Battleship Yamato did this, and most recently it’s been the hallmark of the Rebuild of Evangelion movies. Most of the time, these Part 1’s tend to be straightforward, acting as quick compilations/retreads that change little from the original material but set up the possibility for future deviations.
Not so with Hi-Evolution 1. While it certainly would have been possible to just cut and splice the TV series into a large recap movie, the film instead decides to focus on a particular crucial arc of Eureka Seven. When Renton leaves the Gekko (the ship of anti-government rebels of which Eureka is a part), he ends up living with a couple named Ray and Charles Beams, and in doing so matures tremendously within a short span. In the original TV series, this doesn’t happen until about 13 episodes in, so the fact that the movie cuts out such a large chunk of the early episodes is unorthodox in itself.
Combined with this, however, is the fact that the film then decides to play with time. Instead of presenting its events chronologically, Hi-Evoluton 1 sees fits to go back and forth in time constantly, marked by black and white transitions of “Play Back” and “Play Forward.” It can be jarring, and much of the audience’s audible reactions showed a desire for the film to just dispense with the jumping around. For me, I kept wondering why the director, Kyoda Tomoki, decided to do things this way when a standard compilation approach would have theoretically been much easier.
I have three thoughts. First, focusing on Renton’s time with Ray and Charles over the beginnings of his relationship with Eureka juxtaposes him with Adroc’s portrayal from the beginning of the film. Second, the order in which the scenes play out is not chronological but rather an “emotional order.” Third, the creators of Eureka Seven seem to see their works not as ways to return to the world of their creation, but as a way to “remix” them.
Renton is shown to be quite similar to his father in the sense that both have strong convictions do what they feel is right even if it means everyone’s against them. The crucial difference, which gradually narrows over the course of the film, is maturity. Adroc risks himself to save Eureka, but it comes from a kind of wisened, fatherly position, as well as that of someone who understands the consequences of going against the world. Renton, impetuous youth that he is, initially doesn’t quite fully comprehend the tough decisions. By manipulating the progress of time, Hi-Evolution 1 seems to want to first juxtapose the turbulent emotions of teenage Renton and then gradually draw them closer to Adroc’s convictions. I find it notable that Adroc is voiced by Furuya Tohru, famously the voice of main hero Amuro Ray in the original Mobile Suit Gundam. Not only is there a kind of parity in terms of movie compilation trilogies, but it makes thematic sense that Renton is the “descendant” of Amuro.
Music is a major part of Eureka Seven. Characters’ names, robots, ships, supernatural phenomenon, almost everything is a reference to music (the most obvious one is probably “Ray” and “Charles”). There’s a lot about rhythm and musicality in the series, and it gives me the impression that the creators treat it as a kind of “song.” The full English title is Psalm of Planets, Eureka Seven, after all. The previous film, Pocketful of Rainbows, was an experiment in seeing how different a story they could tell by using existing footage. In it, Renton and Eureka’s circumstances are far different, and even their personalities don’t quite match up with what fans were familiar with. In other words, it felt like a heavy remix of a familiar song, one in which the original tune is almost unrecognizable.
Hi-Evolution 1 feels like a remix that tries to retain more of the source than Pocketful of Rainbows, but still desires to be its own thing. It has the same characters and general story as the TV series, but with a few touches that emphasize different elements more. In particular, the relative lack of Eureka in the film is rather conspicuous, as is the complete absence of Eureka’s “rival,” Anemone. At the very least, we know the answer to the latter, The film concludes with a “next movie preview” showing her that is rather surprising to say, the least. I’m going to leave this exact spoiler ambiguous, but I will say that it looks like Hi-Evolution 2 is going to be deviating more heavily from the TV series, just like Evangelion 2.0.
After the film, Kyoda did a moderated Q&A. In it, he revealed the staff’s code names for the first two films. Hi-Evolution 1 is “Renton 7.” Hi-Evolution 2 is “Anemone 7.” If we think of these films as highlighting and drawing out different essences present in the TV series and creating new melodies from them, the general direction of this trilogy starts to make more sense.